March 17, 2021

Getting pro-active with health and wellbeing apps

During the warmer months of 2018 and 2019, my daily organic step count averaged over 12,000 steps a day. Frequently traveling in and out of London for client meetings, meeting up with colleagues or friends it was easy to rack up the steps, often choosing to walk rather than take the underground, bus or car. Unlike the warmer, dryer months, the less clement greyer periods of UK weather made it harder to naturally get my daily baseline of exercise in, but then that’s exactly what the gym membership and exercise clubs were for.

Then life took a turn for all of us, and we started looking forward to the precious one-hour of outdoor time we were allowed per day. As a family we would go to the local park, the kids would ride their bikes or climb their favourite tree, whilst my wife and I would take it in turns to run around a far too familiar patch of grass.

Like many of us, one-hour a day outdoors was very much looked forward to, but often ended up cancelled due to weather or other commitments, so, spurred on with a sense of innovation and the excitement of making the most of this new reality, the classic ‘80s TV workout was revitalised with a digital face-lift and new personalities.

Following in the footsteps of the Green Goddess and Mr Motivator, new YouTube stars were born, with the likes of Joe Wicks and his The Body Coach YouTube channel entering the Guinness World Records for the ‘most viewers for a fitness workout live stream on YouTube.’ with 955,185 live viewers on the 24th March 2020.

If you’re too young or too old to willingly remember the Green Goddess or Mad Lizzy’s breakfast time workouts, you might enjoy this short video.

However, record-breaking The Body Coach was, it was just a moment in a rather strange, yet, future defining year. Even though we were excluded from group exercise, swimming pools and gyms, we were left with several options. We could either sit in front of the TV, work longer hours eat and drink more, or we could do that, plus find new ways to elevate our heart rates and keep us moving.

Changes in behaviours

Marketing insight company MiQ conducted some research that highlights some of the interesting fitness trends of 2020.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the search traffic for fitness content more than doubled between January 2020 and March 2020, behind this though are some other interesting numbers. During the first quarter of 2020 interest in calisthenics, yoga, strength training, Zumba and aerobic exercise content remained elevated, but fairly consistent. As stricter stay-at-home orders came in to place, nearly all of these categories increased, interestingly though, calisthenics, Zumba and aerobic exercises forms increased more than two-fold. During the following months, strength training began to increase at the expense of calisthenics and by the end of May, interest in Zumba had dropped back to levels seen in January.

The changes in interest reflect the change in mindset and attitudes that were developing as the lockdowns, and the new digital fitness programmes lost their novelty. 

These searches opened the doors to new online and app-based fitness content, with YouTube fitness content peaking at 18 times the volume in May 2020, compared with pre-COVID volumes. Fitness apps, and associated wearable health devices also boomed.

Lockdown fatigue and YouTube spurred fitness and wellbeing app growth

But then enthusiasm seems to have wained. Joe Wicks’ The Body Coach TV channel went from approximate 1.5 million monthly video views in January 2020, to a whopping 44.4 million in May, dropped down to a still very respectable 5 million through the end of 2020, with a temporary post-Christmas spike up to around 17 million.

Other popular YouTube fitness channels such as Tone It Up and Popsugar also so short-term COVID boosts that have subsequently petered out.

Whilst some of the flattening out of the YouTube views can be attributed to reduced enthusiasm and lockdown fatigue, much of this viewership has migrated to apps. According to research published in January 2021, daily active usage of fitness apps increased 24% quarter-on-quarter in 2020. Further research predicts this to continue growing at more than 21% through to 2026.

Credit: The Body Coach TV: New Years Day Live Workout


Movement and emotions

There’s more to this than just steps and heart rates. Frequent and varied exercise is crucial for not just our physical health, but our mental and emotional health too. 

The MiQ data also shows the change in interested towards mental health wellbeing and nutrition information too, with healthy cooking searches increasing over 100%, and mental health and wellness increasing by 64% and 81% respectively.

In a recent video interview an ex-SpaceX employee talks about the symbiotic relationship between COVID19 and the “global metabolic health crisis”. He explains how the pandemic exasperated metabolic health problems, and then, how these health problems amplified the chances of severe negative outcomes associated with the virus. Perhaps even more intriguingly, he explained how exercise and physical health directly impact mental capability, and that Alzheimer’s disease is now being taught in medical schools as Diabetes Type 3 - due to it being an insulin intolerance of the brain.

There’s two other important elements to consider about this trend and the future of exercise. First, there’s the sense of community, or “belonging” that exercise classes, sports clubs and organised fitness programmes can bring. Then, there’s the implied reason to leave the house. Both of these aspects can have a strong influence on emotional and mental wellbeing.

“Fostering a sense of community and belonging when in-person contact has been discouraged is even more critical to keep users engaged during and after COVID-19. When considering post-COVID-19 life, adults are not rushing back to activities or commitments that put them in crowded locations or close proximity with others.” - Mintel

So where is all this going?

We see the resurgence of celebrity driven fitness programmes, but unlike the VHS days of Jane Fonda’s Workout, these fitness apps will be carefully constructed to deliver the following features and benefits:

Personality

Celebrities will find new touch points with their followers and fans, building data-driven relationships as well as new brand awareness and new revenue opportunities through fitness and wellness apps that reflect their personalities and passions.

Personalised Programmes

In addition to reflecting the personality and beliefs of the celebrity, the apps will use data insights and cutting-edge technologies to deliver more personalised coaching and motivation, in addition to new personalised product and service recommendations.

Credit: Joe Wicks - The Body Coach app

Progressive Fitness

Working in conjunction with wearable technologies, programmes will adapt to provide exercise progression that is suitable for the individual.

Physical, Mental and Emotional

Apps that cater for physical, or mental, or emotional wellbeing will become less relevant as the importance and value of a combined approach becomes more apparent.

Apps will combine workouts with wellbeing and nutritional advice as part of the deep personalisation.

Hybrid

Gyms and classes will open again, and people will want to re-engage with them, in perhaps new more hygienically-aware ways. Future health and fitness apps will need to support the user both in the home, during outdoor exercise and within a gym or class setting.

Collaborative

Apps will give celebrities the opportunity to further broaden their fan-base and deepen follower loyalty, through opportunities to collaborate with other brands, personalities and charities.

Gamification

Through the use of both subtle and overt gamification techniques, such as levels, badges, and competitions, tomorrow’s fitness apps will encourage repeat, long term usage, further driving value and engagement. 

Community

Building from the collaborative and gamification features, these new fitness apps will help forum communities focused on the celebrity’s brand. The communities will help fill some of the current exercise-from-home void, in addition to helping extend the reach and strength of the personality’s brand.

Many celebrities have already built their own apps, or are in the process of doing, for example Jessica Ennis produced her “Jennis” app which we were involved with as shown above - read about the Jennis app here. However, the true potential of the feature set outlined above relies on some degree of interoperability between the personalities and brands.

We therefore believe that organisations or agencies that manage portfolios of personalities and brands will be well suited to deliver on the future wellbeing fitness app trend.

Pro-Active Agencies 

We’re looking to partner with brand agencies that want to proactively explore health and fitness marketing and engagement channels to deliver new opportunities and value for their clients.

If you are a celebrity brand management organisation or agency and want to discuss how to deliver a future fitness app platform for your portfolio, get in touch

There’s not time to waste, either, new celebrity-led apps are popping up every week,  which can add complications for agencies like yours. Get in touch today and we’ll help you get up and running in weeks, not years.

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